After the TARDIS team popped to Kablam HQ last week, they now find themselves in 17th century Lancashire, joining King James I on a witch hunt. But what did our team think of The Witchfinders? Let’s find out…
The Witchfinders starts rather abruptly with the team already at their destination and part way into their integration into the local scene. This felt a bit weird to me. I usually enjoy the moments in the TARDIS or the companions reacting to their new location. Again, the episodes are 5 minutes longer, but it feels like they’re not making use of the extra time.
Another disappointment is that the companions didn’t bother with period clothing. In the past, Rose has worn a Victorian outfit (in The Unquiet Dead), while Bill and the Doctor dressed up for the 1814 frost fair (in Thin Ice), but now the team don’t make any kind of effort, happily wandering around 1955 Montgomery, 1947 India and 17th Century Lancashire in clothing that makes them stand out. And aside from the odd comment, nobody seems to notice.
This episode also dealt with the ‘elephant in the room’ about how a female Doctor would get on in sexist times. It seems odd that it’s taken 8 episodes to explore this, but it’s really well handled. The Doctor deals with it well and stands up for herself, while still coping with the limitations of her gender in such a time. I feel like this should’ve been done earlier on in the series to get it out of the way, but on the flip side, I’m glad it wasn’t shoehorned into an episode unnecessarily.
I’ve seen a lot of praise for Alan Cumming’s portrayal of King James I, and while it was an interesting character with a good range, for me it came across a bit too pantomime at times. That may be the King’s own ‘theatrical’ manner, but he’s not one of my favourite historical characters in the show.
This week we’re treated to another alien villain, but not a very memorable one. We’ve had wooden creatures before – in Knock Knock and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe – but the Morax takes it up a notch. The ‘zombies’ were rather creepy, Becka Savage’s transformation was a nice bit of CGI magic and the final showdown was pretty impressive.
Overall, this episode was a pretty ‘okay’ episode. There were some gems – the Doctor escaping her ducking thanks to a wet weekend with Houdini – and some nonsensical moments – the Doctor letting the companions going off to hunt the ‘zombies’ despite them not having a clue what to do when they find them – but generally it was a fun historical with some rather nice hats.
Doctor Who’s latest episode, The Witchfinders may just be my favourite episode so far for series 11. It was a really well told story (for the most part) that showed how the Doctor’s gender can occasionally be a hinderance to her when poking about through Earth’s history.
I thought the acting was quite good and I absolutely adored Alan Cumming as King James I. The actor certainly stole the show. I honestly wish I could see more of him as this character. In fact the only actual downside to the story for me seemed to be the aliens.
The alien menace meddling about in the Jacobean era seemed a bit mediocre if I’m honest. They were terribly predictable and their history vague at best. They also seemed quite easily bested in the end. I certainly would not put the Morax at the top of my best villains list. Who uses a tree as a lock for a prison full of war criminals anyway? And alien tech tree smoke harmed them? I’m not convinced…
Monster issues aside, The Witchfinders was full of emotions, both good and bad. It certainly acted as an important reflection of some of society’s and religion’s past mistakes. I loved the historic trivia tidbits that were sprinkled throughout the episode as well. They truly helped to make the story feel more real and grounded.
This episode was a delight. I’ve always been terribly fond of episodes set in the past, and this series has not disappointed me in that case. The pacing of this story is great and the location is gorgeous.
Jodie Whittaker is really starting to get into the role of the doctor for me, Ryan and Yaz are still not doing it for me and not getting quite the character development I have been expecting. Graham again shines throughout the episode having more and more great lines and superb acting from Bradley Walsh himself.
Now onto the guest stars, they all play their parts very well but I have to say Alan Cumming as King James the first was absolutely fantastic casting, from the moment we meet him it’s hilarious and it’s from the very end of the episode you just want to see more of him in future episodes.
At this point in the series the sonic screwdriver has literally appeared in every single episode, it’s starting to get extremely boring and unsatisfying when the Doctor ends up sonic-ing everything, I don’t see it not being used any time soon with the upcoming episodes.
The monster was pretty mediocre but definitely not the worst we’ve had this series and story itself help up pretty nicely against other ones we’ve had. Only 2 episodes away from the finale now so fingers crossed it can only get better and better!